Monday, July 30, 2012

Queen Anne's Lace, Berkshires

There are gentle, undulations in the middle ground field that will show nice variations in the color.  This lies behind the lower half of the painting, which is where all the queen anne's lace will be.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

Queen Anne's Lace, Berkshires

15 1/2" x 28" Oil on Board, Queen Anne's Lace
First day back in the studio after the Berkshires.  This piece is a response to all the glorious Queen Anne's Lace that was blooming there.  The field will eventually be filled with the plant.  In the distance is the Hancock, MA Shaker Village with the round barn and a few other out buildings.  In my head, I keep coming back to Monet's Field of Poppies.  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Norman Rockwell Museum

Marooned by Howard Pyle
The Rockwell Museum is holding a show of Howard Pyle's illustrations.  Pyle was in illustrator and children's book author during the fin de siecle.  Rockwell studied and admired his works.  Pyle was also N.C. Wyeth's teacher.  You can see the influence on Wyeth in the above painting.  Pyle's work is extremely varied.  He was a true illustrator in the sense that his color, composition, style would adapt to the time and intent of the story.  Strictly considering the works divorced from the story, his pieces done in a Pre-Raphaelite style were strongest.  The color popped.  To bring home the point of his eclectic style, the museum hung works by other artists that Pyle observed and mimicked.  The best of these was an Audrey Beardsley and The Great Wave of Kanagawa by Hokusai, a work I had previously seen only in reproduction. For a comprehensive look at Pyle, visit Ian Shoenherr's blog.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Sanford Smith Fine Art

Untitled by Michael Zelehoski
Cape Light by Warner Friedman
The Sanford Smith gallery in Great Barrington paired two regional artists who complemented one another and gave greater meaning to the show's title, Double Vision.  Zelehoski's work is composed of found wooden objects that are embedded in flat panels.  Friedman is a more traditional landscape artist but uses shaped canvases.  So, if you can imagine the canvas above literally shaped like the railings, you have the picture.  They both address the idea of perspective, fooling the eye, the idea of canvas as window.  I found them both to be equally abstract and realistic in their presentations.  I think Zelehoski's work has more integrity and asks more of the viewer.  Friedman somehow wants to do all the work for me when it comes to suspending my doubt.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hancock Shaker Village

Hancock Shaker Village
The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing are a religious sect more commonly known as The Shakers, given for the dancing they partake in during services. They live communally and are amazing at invention, music, egalitarianism. The only remaining members live in a Maine commune. Since we had seen Borrowed Light at Jacob's Pillow on Sunday, we wanted to visit the Shaker Village in Hancock, MA.  It is a beautiful setting in which most of the buildings still stand in pristine condition.  The Shakers have not lived in the village since the 1960's.  We heard nice talks in the round barn and the dormitory about the structures and life in general.  The dormitory dining room had 2 interior windows, borrowed light.  
All Shaker design begins with function.  Once the function is perfected, the form follows. While their inventiveness in utilitarian architecture, tool design, and manufacturing is impressive, it is their woodworking that most appeals to me.  It is a beautiful, aesthetically pleasing form of clean, smooth lines. A table foot does not need a ball and claw to assure it's stability.  A simple, angled leg ends on a point with the minimum area needed to do the job. Each piece holds the maker's hand in its appearance.  I can literally see the man at work, sanding, oiling, joining.   The warm, smooth wood of the furniture, built in cabinets, etc shimmers with a depth of color and screams to be lovingly rubbed.  
Hancock Shaker Village Common Dining Room

 'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free

'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
                                                And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
                                                         When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
                                                       To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come 'round right. 
by Elder Johnson

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mass MoCA

Mass MoCA in North Adams is one of the largest centers for contemporary visual and performing arts in the US. It is located in a converted factory building, which offers huge display spaces. We went primarily to see the "Oh, Canada" and "Invisible Cities" shows. Fortunately, a tour of all the galleries was beginning as we arrived. It was nice to get an overview of the space and introductions to pieces in each gallery. The most interesting installation was the Sol Lewitt retrospective. Please visit this site to understand the magnitude and importance of this show. 65 artists and students spent 6 months installing the work which will be on display for 25 years. Lewitt had gifted his work to Yale University late in his life. Yale, realizing their space limitations, sought out a loan agreement with Mass MoCA, and LeWitt agreed. He visited and collaborated on the placement and configuration of the spaces prior to his death. My House Critic and I debated the universal and eternal question, "is that art?"  The debate was not over the finished work, but over the fact that one purchases the LeWitt diagram and instructions, not the mural. It does blur that line between design and fine art.  But isn't all art blurry these days. And it is far from unusual for a noted artist to have studio assistants apply paint to surface.  What we are unclear on is the extent of detail in LeWitt's design.  Did he dictate the color mixture, the exact size of each line?  

Of the two other shows, I liked The Mountain by Graeme Patterson in the Oh, Canada show.  My best description is "art within art within art".  If you've ever read The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban, you will recall a passage where the Mouse and his child are stuck in the bottom of a river.  They can't move; all Mouse can do for days is stare at an empty dog food can in front of him.  The label on the can pictures a dog holding the same can with the same label.  This image repeats itself ad infinitum.  All the Mouse can do is try to find the last image of the dog holding the dog food can. Everything in The Mountain relates to everything else. Patterson describes it as the first of four installations that focus on his personal experience with male bonding.  It is very witty.  
Coming in as close second favorite was the entire Invisible Cities show, particularly Melting Pot by Miha Strukelj.  The concept is inspired by Italo Calvino's novel of the same name in which imaginary conversations take place between Marco Polo and Kubla Khan.  Polo describes his voyages and the cities to Khan.

One note.  I noticed that a lot of the sculpture was formed with found materials, mostly manufactured.  For example, Patterson used white sheets, afghans to represent snow atop his mountain. I was so happy to have finally seen some contemporary art that can be visually exciting, provoking, evoking and accessible without extensive reading and probing to understand the artists' intents.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Harrison Gallery and The Clark

Meadow Path by John Macdonald
The Harrison Gallery specializes in contemporary American artists, with a focus on landscapes.The Harrison's featured artists were John MacDonald's paintings and Paul Caponigro's photographs. MacDonald's work, pictured above, was of landscapes in and around Williamstown.  The quality of the paints is almost encaustic in appearance.  I couldn't decide if that was a mixing choice or a medium effect until reading the artist's statement.  He's a plein air painter interested in light and texture.  The work is loose and expressive and clearly captures the local landscape.  It evokes a bit of Edward Hopper for me.

The Clark is a very interesting place.  It  houses the private collection of the Clarks, (he, grandson of Singer Sewing Machine founder) and has a mission to dedicated to research and extending and advancing the public understanding of art.  The holdings are extensive, museum quality and quantity. This trip was a bit disappointing because the original building is under renovation and the current show is recent archaeological discoveries of northern China.  I admit this lack of interest is due to my complete ignorance of Chinese art, religion, culture, etc, etc.  I did enjoy a couple of the sculptures. Zhenmushou (Tomb Guardian Beasts) from the Tang dynasty.  The expressions and the melding of beasts/humans was captivating.  And the Warrior Guardian from the Qi dynasty because of his posturing amused me greatly.  
 ZhenmushouWarrior Guardian

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Wit Gallery

According to their web site, "An acronym for "Wonders In Time" The Wit Gallery focuses on art that brings a feeling of warmth and hospitality which transcends time.  While the works intrigue me, I don't trust them.  There is too much commercialism, too much "oh, isn't that neat, cute, pretty, unusual".  While quite skillful and polished, the works seem to be contrived and made for Architectural Digest.  Somehow, the artist's hand has disappeared.  It's almost as if Pier One Imports showed up.  And for some inexplicable reason, to me it smacks of California art.  

The above painting by Suzanne Howes-Stevens is an example of the gallery works.  It is oil over a collaged map which locates the painting's site. The painting is framed by and bleeds into the map.  While the idea of using the map to restate the idea of landscape is interesting, the very formal and clean use of it defies nature (IMHO).   Also, every painting of Howes-Stevens looks more or less like the one above.  She's found her schtick and she schticking with it.  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Summer Reading

Summer Reading, Oil on Board, 28.5" x 20.5" is showing at the Judith Klein Gallery in New Bedford, MA Art of Summer 2012 show which benefits the New Bedford Women's Shelter.  Both subject and color are more illustrative than my usual oeuvre.  This was to appeal to the theme of the show.  The point of view is from our upper deck, across the flower boxes to the pool.  
I will be out of the studio for the next 10 days while I visit galleries and museums in western Massachusetts.  However, I will post my insights.

Saturday, July 7, 2012